NSW gambling spend spikes in 2021

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
NSW gambling spend spikes in 2021

Gamblers in NSW have lost more than $2.2 billion in the first four months of 2021.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that gambling reform advocates have renewed their calls for an acceleration of cashless gambling trials in pubs and clubs.

Almost $600 million was collected by poker machines in April, up 12.58 per cent on April 2019, ahead of the first “digital wallet” program to be trialled at a venue in August.

Led by Aristocrat Gambling and Wests Newcastle, the 12-week trial will trigger cashless payments for electronic gaming machines, with built-in features like time and spending limits.

It is the first proposal received by the New South Wales government as it explores cashless gaming solutions to target problem gambling and money laundering in venues.

The latest figures from Liquor and Gaming NSW reveal poker machines in Canterbury Bankstown took in almost $48 million in profits in April, or more than $1.5 million a day.

In Fairfield, pokies collected more than $47 million.

Cumberland, Sydney and Blacktown councils were close behind, where profits in each area ranged from $96 million to $116 million.

Digital wallet trial set for Newcastle

Kate da Costa, the New South Wales spokeswoman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the figures reflected a “predictable rebound” in real money pokies use, one year after the pandemic began and one month after JobKeeper ended.

“We know gambling of any form, particularly in poker machines, is an activity people turn to when stressed,” she said.

“A digital payment system that has harm minimisation measures, like enforced breaks in play and spending limits puts friction into the system, which is shown to be effective.”

Ms da Costa said close monitoring of the upcoming trial was critical and called for more venues to participate in similar programs.

Customers participating in the Newcastle trial will need to supply 100 points of identification and an Australian bank account.

Money and session time limits, information and real-time messaging to customers and marshals will also be applied.

Minister for Digital and Customer Service Victor Dominello said the trial highlighted the growing push for cashless gambling, which gained momentum after the release of the Bergin report into Crown Resorts and subsequent state royal commissions.

The 18-month inquiry found the casino giant “facilitated money laundering” and prompted the chair of the NSW gaming authority to call out money laundering as an issue plaguing pubs and clubs.

“We’re still yet to see the outcome of the royal commissions in Victoria and WA, but what we are seeing in NSW is industry leaders stepping up to embrace cashless gaming solutions,” Mr Dominello said.

Non-cash payments rise as gambling register called “useless”

Chief executive officer of Wests Group Australia Philip Gardiner said the Newcastle trial would seek to capture around 500 members. 

He said digital spending was widespread across the group’s five venues, with card transactions in non-gaming spending increasing from 20 per cent to more than 70 per cent in the past 18 months.

Clinical lead of the gambling treatment program at St Vincent’s Hospital Kate Fennessy said any digital solution must feature greater enforcement of the self exclusion register, which she said has largely failed struggling addicts.

“Most gamblers tell you they have been let down by the safety net. The register has really been useless to date,” she said.

A ClubsNSW spokesman said gaming machine revenue in clubs alone was up seven per cent compared to the same period in 2019, which was below the 10 per cent growth in retail trade sales.

“Given inflation and substantial losses during COVID, this is an unsurprising result,” he said.

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